Louis Rangel’s title at Wylie East Intermediate School is head custodian, but a more accurate description might be head encourager.
Rangel loves kids, and he never misses an opportunity to encourage and uplift the kids around him as he goes about his duties during the day.
“I enjoy kids,” he said. “I really do. I love to build relationships with some of the kids if I can. With what’s going on in America, sometimes those kids need some encouragement. I try to do that. I went through some of that stuff too when I was growing up.”
Rangel came to Wylie eight years ago at the urging of his cousin Victor Salinas, who is now head custodian at Wylie West Junior High. Salinas suggested his cousin come to work at Wylie, but Rangel wasn’t so sure.
“I said no I don’t want to go to Wylie,” Rangel remembers. “You always heard these things about Wylie, rich kids, this and that. I kind of hesitated as to applying.”
He finally relented and was hired to work at the high school, where he quickly discovered that Wylie was nothing like he had imagined.
“I found out it was totally different,” he said. “Everybody made me feel welcome. You can’t always believe what you hear out in public. I am very happy to be here. I
wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Rangel started at Wylie working 2-10 p.m., cleaning high school classrooms after the students had left. But he was soon promoted to lead custodian, and his duties increased. Not only was he cleaning, but he was scheduling the other custodians, ordering supplies and making sure everything ran smoothly.
He began to develop friendships with students and teachers.
“At the high school, I had a couple of teachers, we bonded really well,” he said. “Any time one of us had a problem we could sit and talk. We prayed a lot for each other. I had a small group that I could go to and ask for their prayers, and I knew that they would pray.”
Those prayers became extra important when Rangel was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He had surgery in 2019, and the High School stepped up to help. One of the teachers started a GoFundMe Page for medical expenses, and he also was one of the recipients of money from the annual cancer basketball game.
Plus, the entrepreneurship class organized a fund raiser.
“They helped me out tremendously,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to say just how much it meant.”
Not all of the help was financial. Some of the teachers also provided emotional support.
“It hit me a little hard, but I had a lot of support,” he said. “There were some teachers at the high school who had gone through cancer. They looked out for me. They were very encouraging to me. At this point, I’m just trying to repay. If somebody needs encouraged, I try to do that with them.”
With the cancer battle behind him, Rangel moved to the new East Intermediate Campus when it opened in January.
“It’s totally different,” Rangel said. “For one, it’s a whole lot smaller. There’s a big difference in the age group. It’s a big difference in how you communicate to the kids. I love it here. I talk to them at lunch. I ask them how their day is going. Right now at this stage, I like the younger kids.”
Rangel has spent his life working with kids. He and his wife, Aurora, have four children, all of whom graduated from Cooper, and they have 13 grandchildren, with another on the way. Through the years, he coached both his children and his grandchildren in baseball, football and even soccer. He also helped run a summer track program for more than 16 years.
He also worked with kids at Minda Street Church of Christ where he and his wife attend.
“My goal with kids is just to encourage them to continue and not to ever give up,” he said. “Don’t give up on themselves.”
He said he is very happy he ended up taking his cousin’s advice and applying at Wylie.
“When I first started I didn’t know if I wanted to be at Wylie,” he said. “I’ve learned that Wylie is a very close-knit family. They are there to help anyone who needs help no matter who you are or what you do. Sometimes being a custodian, a lot of times you get the sense that they don’t appreciate you or what you do. I’ve learned different. They do appreciate what you do. I’m very happy to be at Wylie.”